C's story has all the elements in it that AOD counsellors recognise as often accompanying chronic and long term drug use.
The mystery and the grace of her story is that although this was true for a while, the story shifted and C has become determined to prevent others falling into the world that nearly consumed her- the one she overcame.
In this story we have the migrant experience, family violence, divorce, victim of crime, drug use, homelessness, abuse, home invasions, death threats, severe trauma and brushes with the law.
But we also have acceptance, forgiveness, faith, resolution and a fierce determination that this should never happen again- to anyone.
C's story begins when her parents secretly divorce. They don't separate- they are determined to leave the children unscathed. A migrant family, bound by rules of their culture of origin, they divorce but keep it a secret. But violence remains a feature of their life and when C is about 13 she discovers her parents' secret. After that, things become rocky for her. School life, home life all become uncertain and well tested as C responds as any child might. Angry, uncertain afraid and very young and very vulnerable she slowly begins the trek into drug use.
Parties, hanging out with mates, having fun.
When a predatory type enters C’s life and hones in on her vulnerability he manages to extricate her from her family life. With this action he has ensured C will become scared and homeless. She escapes him but is now unable to go home. Unable to feel safe. Her use of drugs shifts and she develops a heroin habit. She couch surfs, relies on others and becomes embroiled in the street life in South West Sydney when things were at their ugliest there.
C is unsure that her parents will accept her and they have made some mistakes that make her wary as well. C's life becomes increasingly nomadic and homeless.
Drug use becomes a central feature of existence and she feels cast adrift. More than once she faces down a dangerous situation because she lives so close to danger that to her, the threats of guns to the head or machetes to the throat didn’t matter.
And somewhere in the whirl she finds some anchors. Some contacts with her parents were good. They helped her when they could. She found people who believed in her, policemen, youth workers, even people who were also in the same mess she was in.She clung to that hope.
Things came to a critical point. Not one that needs be shared, except to say that she had nothing to lose. She tried again, as she had before to get off the gear. This time she clung to the hope her family and others had given her, her faith and found her strength. To her surprise her family welcomes her back. She begins an astonishing journey through illness, and study and finds reserves of strength to engage not just as the cliches would have it, as a positive member of society.
FDS came into C’s life in a way perhaps different to most others. C began doing a TAFE course on Alcohol & Other Drugs. She approached FDS to do some volunteer work. FDS gave C the knowledge and strength to help others, but more importantly to talk to her family. Their constraints prevented them from seeking assistance. FDS gave C the ability to talk with her family, to have discussions that would never have otherwise happened.
C now works youth at risk, with complex needs and who are at risk of falling into the same traps she did. Her parents are now very involved in her life and her life as a parent herself is a new source of strength.
When I wrote C's story for her/ with her, I did so knowing that the terrible parts of the story were probably what was wanted. But I feel that the real parts, the ones that really matter are that despite everything, people believed in her, that she and her family could accept and forgive, that she was not only able to step beyond the world that was pulling her down, but she could overcome and fight its effect on others.
I've left C's name a secret, she deserves that. Because if you ever met her you might recognise that she had a history if you were astute, if she trusted you she might even tell you a little of it. But mostly what you would see is someone who is competent, has a strong and passionate personality, a quick intellect and occasionally a bad mouth. You would watch her as she makes sure the young people she works with know that she believes in them and you would not be surprised to see that they, and others, believe in her.